Saturday, 26 May 2012

2012 Seminars in Australia

The June Seminars in Australia are coming up. I've officially taken the week off instructing here to teach these seminars in Western Australia, which will be hosted by the KUA (Karate Union of Australia). It will be high-class training for those who participate. Let's practice traditional Shotokan karate-do together! Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. Osu, Andre

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Andre Bertel Interview: Germany 2012

Oliver Schomburg conducted this interview on the 31st of January in Ahrenshurg, Germany. He recently made it into a video, which you can watch by following the link below.

"In this interview Andre Bertel gives us a rare insight into the training with his mentor, the late Karate legend Tetsuhiko Asai Shihan (10th Dan). He also reveals some of the key aspects of Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karate and emphasizes the importance of training for real self-defense instead of focusing only on performance and winning competitions.

This interview was conducted with Andre during his visit to Germany early 2012. It was a rather spontaneous idea and is more or less improvised. From a technical point of view the result is far from being professional. Maybe next time I will get a chance to aqcuire proper studio lighting and microphones. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy the video and get something useful out of it for your own Karate studies.

Last but not least, domo arigato gozaimasu Andre sensei! OSU, Oliver."

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Monday, 21 May 2012

More than ducking a kick

Many people ask me, as Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's IJKA uchideshi, "Why practice his special waza of ducking underneath keriwaza (kicking techniques)?" Well, Asai Sensei told me that ducking under a kick, especially a mae-geri (front kick),  is the most difficult; therefore, if we can do this, we can duck anything.
Of course, as his personal student, I teach this in various ways on all of my seminars (because it ranges from the BEST KARATE kihon demonstrated by Sensei in the 1970s, right through to a much more intricate level that he was teaching up until he passed away). This technique Asai Sensei labelled 'The Submarine".., and in actuality, besides the physical action, it has much technical depth, and application, than one might think on a `surface level'. To study Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu we must practice this waza, amongst others seeking its perfection. Osu, Andre

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Seeking true karate-do

Tonight Matt Brew Sensei and his lovely wife Eiko took me out to dinner. It was a wonderful time and I also enjoyed being with their baby daughter Reona and seven-year old son Luke (pictured below with 'Grover', Matt and me). It was great to discuss many things and of course, karate-do, as always,  was a major topic. We discussed the importance of mixing things up in karatedo-keiko, especially in regards to kata performed without the count to "self-develop" correct kankyu (rhythm) and regularly doing `matches'. Really speaking this is essential and needs to be done more.
As the only karate club in Christchurch training in Traditional Shotokan style Karate-Do, there is a huge responsibility. Nevertheless, the Christchurch IJKA Shotokan Karate Club is meeting this, and going from strength to strength: because it is focused on training. Such discussions and planning can only help karate practices here to be improved via critical analysis. Of course, this is impossible without a good number of high-level training partners who push us each week. No other Shotokan dojo in the South Island can offer this integral aspect.

While this is positive for us, it shows the sadness of other Shotokan clubs which simply exist because their leaders want to be the kings of their own little castles. They don't want to face a challenge (to really train with intensity)... They just want to be a "karate boss". Pathetic is the only word that comes to mind, and sadly this is commonplace all over the world.
Christchurch IJKA Shotokan is immune from this as it is open to everyone who simply wants to train in Shotokan-ryu karate-do and is not about money. Instructors training payment includes regular blisters and bruises; the occassional black eye, bleeding nose, or serious thump; and the very rare visit to A&E. That's why it is call 'instructors training" - no, it is not for everyone! For karateka who cringe at that, it is still a lot less rough than even high school rugby... This highlights how much karate has been watered down, and in most dojo, is no longer a martial art of self-defence.

Of course, that doesn't mean we can't goof around after training. In case you need a reference, Grandmaster Grover taught me that!

Again I would really like to thank Matt Sensei and Eiko for looking after me tonight. Mizuho also sends her thanks. Arigato gozaimashita. Just to conclude, seeking true karate is all about seeking high-level training; that is, authentic traditional Japanese "martial arts" karate-do and proper training, with the very best training partners possible. Osu, Andre.
© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Updated Training Regime

Here's my present training regime. I have to say that it has been positively improved by recent visits by Keigo Abe Sensei (9th Dan JSKA). My target in karate-do is to train properly as a karate student. After 30+ years of training, what more can I ask? Exceeding the standards of the last decade of kenshusei graduates would make anyone yawn, so according to the feedback I've recieved from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei (before he passed away), Abe Keigo Sensei and especially Ibusuki Sakae Sensei, I am on the right track. Osu, Andre. 


KIHON: Practice of points made by Abe Keigo Shihan in Christchurch last week; in particular, aspects of ashi-hakobi/unsoku and ‘wind-ups’ in the core Shotokan-ryu ido-kihon waza.

KATA: Bassai-sho & Unsu + random kihongata (Heian, Tekki or Junro).

KUMITE: (1a) Uchikomi – kogekiwaza*; (1b) hangekiwaza*; (2) Pre-emptive jiyu-ippon kumite; (3) Jiyu-kumite

* Including non-standard Asai-ryu waza (from the IJKA kumite syllabus). I.e. – kagi-zuki, mawashi-zuki, kesa shuto-uchi etc.

Overall, my present training is rather brutal, but compliments academia!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Hangeki-waza: The subconsciously grooved control of maai

Unambiguously, one of the key points of hangeki-waza (counterattacking techniques) is to subconsciously groove optimal maai (distancing) for oneself. While this is often given much lip service, it is not so easy against high speed and correctly applied/dangerous attacks: if you don't train in an extremely serious manner. One may feel safe within the confines of their own dojo, but when outside of their comfort zone this can often fall apart. Recently we had some black belts from a group called GKR attend Abe Sensei's seminars. However, none of them could even do the most basic karate technique correctly. Needless to say, even in light jiyu-kumite they could not stop anything I fired at them nor could they even touch me, and both ended up on the ground with an ashi-barai & finished. As nice as they were, their karate is not real, their black belts are worth nothing and against a serious attacker--what they do & what they teach--is useless. In Japan they would be a laughing stock. I really felt sorry for them, but more than that--their students--who are obviously learning fake karate. A fake style and a lame one for that matter.

Real karate trains specifically for goshin-jutsu (self-defence) at all times. The waza is always seeking ICHIGEKI-HISSATSU.

Here in these photos Matt Brew Sensei (3rd Dan) and I are demonstrating some kihon-ippon kumite techniques. Take note of the targeting and trajectory to cause optimum effect; in particular, Matt Sensei's superb shuto yokomawashi uchi. "Ichigeki-hissatsu in practice".

Real karate always practices the correct target, optimum angle of impact & trajectory of the attack, type of impact, maximum reactive speed and the gymnastic ability to deliver highly destructive waza. In an authentic dojo if you don't block correctly you'll get hurt, and your hangeki-waza simply won't happen... Training must be effective beyond the confines of the dojo. More than anything, if you are serious about karate - SEEK REAL KARATE! Here in Christchurch we are very lucky to have Hanshi Renzie Hanham (8th Dan Seido) and in Auckland we have Dennis May Shihan (8th Dan Goju Ryu)--you can't go beyond what these authentic karate-do masters have to offer. My point is, real karate is here in New Zealand and readily available, it is simply a matter of seeking the true "way".

Back to the original point of `hangeki', there is a hidden understanding from the past that can only be mastered by correct training; otherwise, ones hangeki will ineffective in a real altercation. This is concerned with the correct position of impact in relation to snap and body weight transfer. Overall, this must be physically understood and grooved into the subconscious via daily training. A superb example of this is Masahiko Tanaka Sensei's chudan kizami-geri, which if not controlled was said to be `hospitalising'. Whilst we should always be controlled in karate, our hangeki must always be pure martial arts; that is, if not controlled it will finish the person we are countering. This is karate-do, the "martial art", and this is hangeki.

Osu, Andre

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Monday, 7 May 2012

One Million visitors to Andre Bertel's Karate-Do

A few days ago ‘André Bertel’s Karate-Do’ exceeded one million visits. Needless to say, I think that’s a fair few people! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone around the world that has supported me, since I started this website/blog.

There are many upcoming articles, projects and international seminars, so stay tuned!

Domo arigato gozaimashita!
Osu, André Bertel

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Keigo Abe Sensei - Christchurch Seminars 2012

Both videos from the seminars are now on youtube (updated today: 28 June, 2012). Please follow the links below. For those who participated I will briefly outline the two seminars here. By the way, if you are wondering why I'm doing kentsui/tetsui on the table, Abe Sensei was telling me 'why uchiwaza was his specialty'. If you get a chance to ask Abe Sensei about this, there is an interesting story (regarding kumite against Mikami Sensei in 1960s), which he was very keen to talk about. OK, on to the seminars!


On the first day Abe Sensei has us work on just a handful of fundamental techniques many times over. These were chudan oi-zuki, jodan oi-zuki, gyaku-zuki, kizami-zuki, age-uke and soto-uke. The focus was on repetitions and speed. Correct koshi no kaiten (full and smaller actions) and aiyumi-bashi were also extensively worked on.

A personal highlight for me was that Abe Sensei used a partner drill, to improve footwork, that I experienced him teaching at the JKA honbu-dojo (back in the 90s). Natsukashi desu ne! Using an obi your partner rigorously `assists you’ to get ‘the correct feel’ for lunging forward in zenkutsu-dachi. Whilst, there are many such drills, Abe Sensei’s version is a little different as he is looking for specific (very subtle) actions, which make his all the more challenging.

Needless to say, by the end of the session everyone was drenched, but also we learned some extremely ‘fine-tuned’ aspects of karate-do.


Day two Abe Sensei briefly reviewed the first day’s practice, and then we transferred the skills to jiyu-kumite. This began with uchikomi training—kogeiki, then hangeki—all focused on achieving the traditional sense of an `ippon’.

After this practice we engaged in a few rounds of jiyu-kumite. Finally, Abe Sensei took us through Bassai-Sho Kata, which needless to say, he performed in Volume Nine of ‘Best Karate’. This was concluded with some bunkai to make sure our fundamental movements were correct.

Overall, the seminars were absolutely fantastic! DOMO ARIGATO GOZAIMASHITA ABE SENSEI!!!


© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).